Bigelow has become, over the past couple of years, one of my favorite directors. Near Dark, Strange Days, Point Break, The Hurt Locker and Blue Steel are all very good to great. I really need to rewatch Zero Dark Thirty, but I’m pretty sure I’d include it in the same category. I didn’t love her first film, The Loveless, but it has a great style and pushes back a little at the mythos of the biker movie, which I really appreciated. I generally don’t care for submarine thrillers, but K-19: The Widowmaker was good for the genre. Near Dark and Strange Days have some issues (the latter really toes the line of acceptability in portraying some really harsh realities), but are great films nonetheless. Point Break is, despite some atrocious dialog, one of the all time action films. Blue Steel is an incredibly effective thriller. The Hurt Locker is a movie that works both as a tense story and as a metaphor without being preachy. I say all that to indicate that I went into this one wanting it to be good.
The Weight of Water does not work as well as any of those, at least for me. The story follows parallel plotlines. The first, in the late 1800s, is about a murder of two women, the woman who survived the night, her husband and brother and the man who is convicted of the killings. This strand more or less worked as a slow building thriller. Sarah Polley is excellent as the woman who survived the night. The second strand is of a woman who is investigating the historical crime, her husband (a famous poet), his brother, and the brother’s girlfriend. They take a boat trip to the scene of the crime. This part didn’t work for me. The biggest issue was Sean Penn as the poet. It was difficult to take him seriously as a wounded poet. I’m not sure if replacing him would have fixed the movie, but it couldn’t have hurt. The second issue was the saxophone score, intended to be sexy but laugh-inducing in practice. The climax of the film is confusing, but not in the sense that it leaves unanswered questions. It’s actually hard to figure out what happened without rewinding. I will likely watch her other films several more times at least, but I’m unlikely to revisit this.
Pass on this one, but I strongly recommend Bigelow's other work, particularly Near Dark, Strange Days (with a heavy content warning), and Point Break.
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